Monday, 25 September 2017

Would Censorship Save Us from Hitler 2.0?

cartoon of right wing extremist by Wendy Cockcroft for On t'Internet
One of Brexit's red lines was getting rid of the Human Rights Act — which guarantees personal freedom. With that gone, the Tories would be free to introduce the draconian censorship they believe will save us from the bad guys. It won't. This is why.

Political discourse has shifted hard to the right


I'm all a-flutter with the news that Our Tess has fouled up Brexit to such a degree that she's asking for a two-year extension, a.k.a. "transition." It's worth noting that the vast majority of Brexit supporters are on the right, where May's authoritarianism is accepted as normal. And most of them are on the right-wing fascist side of the political aisle. I've been warning about the bad direction conservatism has been taking and the folly of Brexit for a while. Whether or not anyone pays attention to my posts is academic; I'm not seeing much in the way of change — except that the powers that be fear socialism and that socialism is rocketing backwards as if it could bring about an anarchist Utopia if we all vote for it. Erm, no.

The neoliberal hegemony


Well like it or not we are stuck in a neoliberal hegemony on the grounds that the socialists are desperate to empty out your wallet to give the contents to the Wayne and Waynetta Slobbs of this world in the name of class war — if you believe the right wing press. Meanwhile, political discourse shifts ever rightwards, normalising views that were considered extreme in our grandparents' day. If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at this shocking tweet — and consider who actually tweeted it:


She has since deleted the tweet but apparently she has form. And it's not as if the CIA is not already a right wing organisation:

[Klaus] Barbie was one of a criminal cabal of former Nazi officers who had fled to South America at the war's end and many were funded by the newly formed CIA for their Right-wing efforts. - The Nazi cocaine connection, by Paul Callan for the Daily Express

Whether they are willing to accept it or not the hands of Western intelligence agencies are dripping with the blood of innocents and all because of Red Scare politics — which Europe dealt with more effectively by instituting welfare states, thereby draining Communism of its promise. Refugees from Soviet states did the rest when relating their tales of woe. Basically, the neo-Nazism we see today is the outer edge of mainstream right-wing-ery and in the absence of an effective left we shouldn't be surprised to see the whataboutism that plays down the sheer horror of Nazis marching in our streets today. We fought a world war over this, you know.

If we shut them up will they go away?


It's both stupid and lazy to shut up voices we don't like for two reasons:

  1. we could easily find our own speech being labelled hate speech should people with opposite views from ours gain power
  2. how in the world can you keep an eye on these people if you drive them underground?

Let's take a closer look at these two arguments.

...in the eye of the beholder


Have a read of some of my more controversial posts. Here they are for your perusal:

Has Political Correctness Finally Gone Too Far?
It's Hard To Be A Moderate Conservative Pirate, But Somebody's Got To Do It 
Jackie Coakley, Rolling Stone's Rape Culture Icon, Is A Liar
Perceptions And Perspectives: What Freedom Really Means
Rape Culture: Women Who Cry Wolf
Rape Culture: Affirmative Consent, Hookup Culture, And The Madonna/Whore Dichotomy

Are you offended? If you lean left/liberal-progressive you've probably got me pegged as a right wing harridan. To my vast amusement, right-wingers tend to think of me as soft-touch socialist enabling layabouts to breed with reckless abandon — all paid for by the welfare state. For the record, I work, claim nothing and have no kids. And I'm basically conservative. This means I believe in traditional values; modern right-wingers are all about hating All The Things! anything to do with socialism, especially the welfare state, which we actually need to maintain order in society, so I make a point of slagging them off. My point is, as society polarises further, my moderate speech (per the standards of 30 years ago) is increasingly likely to be found offensive by either the hard right or the progressive left. What I'm saying is, sooner or later my stance on political correctness or on right-wing numb-nuttery could get me into trouble at some point. I'm pretty damn harsh in my assessment of our government; what if that is deemed subversive at some point? It's not like slagging off right-wingers is an acceptable pasttime: see what happened to blogger Michael Abberton:

Michael Abberton disclosed on his blog that he was visited by two Cambridgeshire police officers on Saturday. He was told he had not committed any crimes, but was asked to delete some of his tweets, particularly a retweet of a faked poster giving 10 reasons to vote for Ukip, such as scrapping paid maternity leave and raising income tax for the poorest 88% of Britons.
 
Abberton, a Green party member who writes a blog on science and green politics, described the incident on his Axe of Reason blog."The police explained that I hadn't broken any law – there was no charge to answer and it really wasn't a police matter. - Police ask blogger to remove tweet about Ukip, by Martin Williams and Mark Tran for The Guardian

Okay, so Abberton wasn't carted off to a gulag or anything but damn if that story doesn't send a chill down my spine. If it wasn't really a police matter why the hell were they at his door at all? Right-wingers are attracted to jobs that give them positions of authority. I suspect the cops in that case may well have been UKIP supporters. They might not; they might just have been too thick to say no to the Kipper councillor's request to investigate; rule of thumb: if "It's not really a police matter" go investigate a burglary, there's a good chap. I'll tell you all now, if anything like that happens to me I'll be blogging about it for YEARS. Do NOT attempt to shut me up, these colours don't run. Freedom to speak is precious; be careful what you wish for lest you find your own speech curtailed on the grounds that somebody finds it offensive.

Keeping an eye on bad actors


At the moment it seems that the noisiest factions are deciding what we can or cannot say in public; that's dangerous. People who thought they could use social media platforms, etc., to adjudicate speech must have got a shock when white supremacists went and started their own social media platforms. Oh, and Stormfront supporters found a new home. Look, people, the more you try to shut these people up the louder they will shout. If you cut off one "head" more will form. The smart thing to do is counter their hate speech with arguments that take their idiot-ology apart. Honestly, I'd rather have those people where I can see them than plotting away in the darker corners of the internet. You can't shut them up, you can only shuffle them around a bit.

Preventing Hitler 2.0


I declare there's no such thing as brainwashing: people choose.

In our online world there are feeble social ties, maybe replicating the actual and external world its activists inhabit, so there is great value in creating a shared enemy to enhance evanescent relationships. They find pleasure from numbers, the discovery of like-minded confederate. One effect is to make such views socially acceptable again, not least because memes leak into the world beyond and they legitimise bigotry. - Make no mistake about it: the alt-right is a cult, and this is how its members lure people in, by Nicholas O'Shaughnessy for the Independent

I am not attracted to hatred or cruelty, I'm repelled by it. But the people who choose to take up with these weirdos do so of their own free will, not due to coercion. To suggest that anyone could be dragged kicking and screaming from a broadly liberal perspective to a Hitler-lovin' Nazi-salutin' one is as ridiculous as it is stupid. That is not how ANYTHING works. People choose. This means that some people are awful. Don't look at me, take it up with the guy who believes he is "racially superior" to Usain Bolt. Now ask him why. Bottom line: he feels threatened and a bit lonely. So then, if this is the kind of person Hitler appeals to, how do we prevent Hitler 2.0?

Adopt Middle-Out policies


Anyone who prefers to demonise right-wingers instead of taking on their issues will spend the rest of their lives wondering why such beliefs proliferate. It's not because mad people are saying things, it's because when the mad people say things, the audience nods and occasionally stomps the floor. Have you noticed it's the scapegoating that gets the floor stomped?

To keep people distracted, you need a scapegoat to accuse of being in league with the boogeyman. You might not be able to actually get at the boogeyman but the scapegoat is within easy reach. Thus the people will merrily lay into the scapegoat and completely ignore the fact that the things being said about the boogeyman aren't even generally true. Having someone to hit pretty much stops them thinking about the situation. - Fear My Boogeyman! The Politics Of Authoritarian Enforcement, by Wendy Cockcroft for On t'Internet

Neo-nazis advocate for actual socialist policies that will benefit "their" people; neoliberalism isn't working out for them so they want to take control of industry to create an economic order that does. Here's the fun part: central planning wouldn't work out any better under a white supremacists government than under a socialist one; the forces of supply and demand would still be in play, after all. Honestly, if you want to stop Hitler 2.0 you're going to have to put Middle-out policies into action. These are:

  • Raise taxes on those earning over £500k PA to £65%
  • Cap CEO/Senior officer pay at x15 times that of the lowest-paid member of staff. When they get a pay rise, so do the staff
  • Encourage the proliferation of profit-sharing schemes to give employees more of a stake in the company
  • Increase the minimum wage to £7.50 PH (this was 2014. I'd make it a tenner now)
  • Cap prescription charges at £10 for multiple items
  • Subsidize public transport for those earning less than £14k PA as part of a co-payment scheme with employers (this was 2014. I'd make it £16k now)
  • Create a co-payment scheme for childcare where the Government pays for half and the employer pays the rest
  • Build more social housing
  • Tax second homes and empty properties at an incremental rate to force them onto the market
  • Invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to support workers and encourage people into work
  • Get rid of mass surveillance. Targeted surveillance is more effective for catching criminals
  • Use OS
  • Eliminate waste
  • Reform IPR, reduce copyright terms to 10-15 years, and promote alternative business models for artists, inventors and creators
  • Break up the big corporations using anti-trust laws to encourage competition and free up the market
  • End the war on drugs and treat them as a health issue

If this is socialism, it's the most classically liberal form, the idea being to take the very best of ideologies that benefit people and put those into practice. Honestly, if you're afraid of socialism because of Red Scare politics imagine how you'll feel if you end up with a socialist government that favours one "ethnic group" over all others. Basically, it seems to me that in the long run one form of socialism will ultimately win out. I'm hoping it'll be the most socially and economically liberal possible so personal freedom isn't subordinated to "the will of the people" but balanced with the public good.

Shift political discourse


Political discourse is right-wing economically and left-wing socially here in the West; we have austerity measures that kill people but we have gay marriage so it can't be that bad, right? Right? Ah. I can't help thinking that progressive goals like gay marriage are sops to the left so the right can continue to screw us. Political discourse needs to shift leftwards on the economic side too so that we can have nice things. With fewer anxieties about missing out on education, infrastructure, and opportunities, people are less likely to be carried away by right-wing rhetoric than if their entire existence is one big wasteland of suck. Let's face it, people: if Nazis are the Bad Milo! of the right, they're going to have to suck 'em back up instead of trying to pretend they're nothing to do with them.

Conclusion


There's only one way to save us from Hitler 2.0: address the social, political, and economical environment that might pop him out. This will shove the far right back to the fringes of nutbucketry where it belongs. Censorship won't work, it'll only ever be a failed effort to sweep such attitudes under the proverbial carpet. And we've all seen how that worked out.

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